To pronounce a photographer as one of the most influential of the 20th century is a pretty big statement. Yet Erwin Blumenfeld’s photographic (and film) output and extraordinary career certainly put him in a good position for the crown. Not only a prolific fashion and commercial photographer, Blumenfeld also created reels of groundbreaking fashion films from the early ’60s, nudes, personality portraits and Dada collages. His early fashion films were exclusively broadcast on SHOWstudio.com in 2006.
For the past 10 years, Blumenfeld’s grandaughter, Nadia Blumenfeld-Charbit, has been working with the Nicéphore Niépce Museum in Chalon-sur-Saône to restore the thousands of Blumenfeld’s Ektachromes and transparencies. As well as an exhibition which opens at Somerset House this week, focusing on his career in New York between 1941 and 1960, the estate are also preparing a new website due to go live later this month which will allow all of his work to be accessible in one place.
Here, AnOther, presents 20 important facts about the man himself:
1. Blumenfeld was an Aquarius, a starsign which is known for its detatched, progressive, humane, intellectual, flamboyant, sympathetic, and unpredictable characteristics.
2. Blumenfeld first started taking pictures aged 10 when he was given a camera by his uncle Carl.
3. Blumenfeld once stated “I was nothing but a Berliner” in reference to the city as his birthplace, his association with Berlin Dada and also his rejection of Nationalism.
4. Blumenfeld was introduced to his future wife Lena Citroën through his close friend Paul Citroën, her cousin. The pair began exchanging letters, falling in love very quickly.Blumenfeld’s love letters comprised Dada collages he had created.
5. Blumenfeld’s early collages were created with a brush and scissors, and he combined photographs, paintings and drawings. He was also a talented illustrator.
17. Blumenfeld shot the first black woman for Vogue in 1958.
18. There was no major museum show of Blumenfeld’s work during his lifetime.
19. Blumenfeld forced a heart attack on himself (by running up some steps and not taking his medication) because he thought he had prostate problems or cancer.
20. In the 1960s, he worked on his autobiography which found no publisher because it was considered to be too ironic towards society. It was only published after his death.
Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941–1960 runs at Somerset House until September 1.